Our Nurses Know: Versatility
DeAnn VanSickle is always looking for her next challenge.
“I love to take a look at issues people are having at Michigan Medicine and help solve them,” said DeAnn, who works as a project manager in the Office of Patient Experience (OPE). “If I can make a clinician’s job easier, or I can make a patient’s stay better, I’ve had a successful day.”
It’s been that way to DeAnn for decades — through various roles and various departments — since she first joined the organization as a nurse 25 years ago.
When DeAnn took her first job at Michigan Medicine on 6C, she quickly looked for ways to make an impact.
“I wanted to help patients, but at the same time, I also had an interest in helping my colleagues do their work better and more efficiently,” DeAnn recalled.
She became an educational nurse coordinator, a position she held for three years until leaving nursing entirely to work on regulatory measures and other issues in the Quality Department.
“My first major project was improving blood pressure equipment and educating everyone on how to use it,” DeAnn said. “Since I was experienced in the clinical environment, that project was ideal for me and gave me an insight into how much I loved managing projects.”
She followed that up by working on financial initiatives in the Program Management Office, where she again used her clinical experience to properly evaluate the value of various programs.
“As a registered nurse, there was an extra layer of trust built into my relationships with faculty and staff during those years — which still persists to this day,” DeAnn said. “People knew that I had been in their shoes, that I was only going to recommend things that make a positive difference to them and the organization.”
Today, she is helping OPE roll out an ambassador program, aimed at assisting patients and families with wayfinding and other general questions. And as part of a project to improve access, she completes clinical observations to connect clinicians across the organization and allow them to share best practices for improving the patient experience.
“When OPE was formed, Chief Patient Experience Officer Keith Gran wanted someone with a clinical background to come in and make sure any recommendations were made with empathy for the unique stresses a nurse or clinician deal with,” DeAnn said. “That’s a major role I play in this new position.”
Staying true to her roots
DeAnn said her nursing experience is also reflected in her daily workflow.
“Often, I’m juggling several projects at once while making sure I’m giving each of them as much attention as possible,” DeAnn said. “It was like that working as a nurse, too, when you have several patients to care for and every one is just as important as the others.”
Her clinical experience also helps her lay out goals and agendas for the projects she manages.
“When working with patients, we would always set goals for them and find ways to help them reach those goals,” DeAnn said. “I do that now with every project — we set an objective at the start and think of ways to reach it.”
If things go awry — which they sometimes do — DeAnn said her training is helpful in dealing with that, too.
“Because every patient is different, sometimes you needed to be creative in how you treat them,” DeAnn said. “In much the same way, every project is unique and often the most creative solutions end up being the most effective.”
At the end of the day, DeAnn said, her work over the past decade has the same outcome as her years working as a nurse.
“Every day, I am helping create world-class experiences to match the world-class care offered at Michigan Medicine,” DeAnn said. “That’s an ongoing challenge that I just love to tackle.”